Russian history textbook doctors the records on Crimean Annexation
09.06.14 | Halya Coynash
The March 16 ’referendum’ on the Crimea’s status was condemned by Ukraine and the international community. Russia invited a number of far-right and neo-Stalinist parties to act as ’observers’
Russia has already added information about its annexation of the Crimea to a school history textbook with the version presented just as doctored as the results of the ‘referendum’ used to claim overwhelming support for the move.
Lenta.ru reports that a new Russian textbook for the 9th grade is about to go on sale with a brief, but rather specific, presentation of the events around Russia’s annexation of the Crimea. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has ordered that other textbooks also be brought into line.
The textbook’s authors – Alexander Danilov, Ludmila Kosulina and Maxim Brandt – have followed Putin’s lead in stressing the role played by the Crimea and Sevastopol in Russian history. With respect to the events in 2014, the account is best quoted in full.
“At the end of 2013 and beginning of 2014 the situation in Ukraine became exacerbated. In February 2014 the legitimate president of the country, Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown, and power went to the opposition. One of its first decisions was to revoke a law on the status of the Russian language and to prohibit its use on an equal basis with Ukrainian. The parliament of the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea, which was part of Ukraine, refused to obey the Kyiv authorities,
On March 6 2014, the Crimean parliament passed a decision that the Republic would join the Russian Federation and set a referendum on this for March 16. According to the results of the referendum, 96.77% of Crimeans, and 95.6% of residents of Sevastopol were in favour of the Crimea and Sevastopol reuniting with Russia. On March 18 an agreement was signed on the Crimea and Sevastopol joining Russia as a subject of the Federation. Following ratification by both sides of the agreement on March 21, 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the law on the Crimea joining Russia and on the formation of two subjects of the Russian Federation – the Republic of the Crimea and as city of federal significance, Sevastopol. A Crimean federal district was created.”
The good thing about most school kids is that they don’t ask inconvenient questions, Their teachers may, which was doubtless the reason for such immense haste in presenting a ‘correct version of events’, the kind students should learn – and repeat for good grades.
Silence about the EuroMaidan protests which made world headlines for more than 3 months was not unexpected. Nor the police gunning down of unarmed protesters which led to Maidan’s ultimatum for Yanukovych to go. This, in fact, is what he did, fleeing first to Kharkiv, then to Russia where he has been in hiding ever since. The version could have been much worse, as the Kremlin and Russian media have demonstrated, but for a school textbook greater accuracy would have been desirable.
Doctoring the records is also inadmissible. Yes, a slim parliamentary majority did vote on Feb 23 to revoke a notorious ‘language law’ pushed through despite mass public protest in July 2012. This law purported to protect the rights of any minority ethnic group comprising 10% of the population of a region, but in fact simply allowed Russian to become the main language in a number of regions of the country. The law was unconstitutional and highly contentious but it touched on a vital nerve in eastern regions of the country and the move was disastrously insensitive. It also allowed the Kremlin to trumpet about the Russian language having been ‘banned’, conveniently ignoring the fact that interim president, Oleksandr Turchynov stated immediately that he would not sign the bill, and the language law remains in force. It is worth mentioning also that on June 7, during his inauguration speech, Ukraine’s new president Petro Poroshenko assured eastern Ukrainians – in Russian – that he guaranteed their right to freely use Russian.
Perhaps the main lie is highlighted by Russian historian Andrei Zubov who lost his post at the prestigious Moscow State Institute of International Relations over his condemnation of Russia’s invasion of the Crimea. Not only was the law not revoked, but it did not cover the Crimea which as an autonomous republic had its own law on language. The Russian language was never under any threat at all.
The version of events which school students in Russia are to receive makes no mention of the armed seizure by soldiers without insignia of government buildings on Feb 27 and takeover by the leader of a marginal party with 4% support at the last parliamentary elections. 14-year-old school students may not understand that a ‘referendum’ cannot be arranged within 10 days, even if the decision it is intended to approve has already been taken. They will not learn from their history lessons that the referendum was condemned by many Crimeans and by all democratic countries; that the near 100% vote for joining Russia has been rubbished even by the Russian Human Rights Council under the President; and that the United Nations and western countries do not accept Russia’s annexation of part of Ukraine’s territory.
On June 2 Putin instructed the Cabinet of Ministers to work together with the Russian History Society on supplementing by August 15 the concept framework for new standardized textbooks of Russian history with information about the role of the Crimea and Sevastopol for the Russian state. These textbooks, he said, should be written in good Russian and not contain any internal contradictions or ambiguous interpretations.
For almost seventy years the Soviet Union foisted a single ‘correct’ view on everything, including history. The grip on ‘correct’ historical interpretation in Putin’s Russia has been tightening for some years, and a historic iron curtain now seems to be falling over Russia’s annexation of the Crimea.
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